Wednesday, April 17, 2013

ARC Review: Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood by Abby McDonald

Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date:  April 23rd, 2013

Abby McDonald gives L.A. the Jane Austen treatment in this contemporary take on Sense and Sensibility.

Hallie and Grace Weston have never exactly seen life eye to eye. So when their father dies and leaves everything to his new wife, forcing the girls to pack up and leave San Francisco for a relative’s house in shiny Beverly Hills, the two sisters take to their changing lot in typically different styles. Shy, responsible Grace manages to make friends with an upbeat, enterprising girl named Palmer but still yearns for her old life — and the maybe-almost-crush she left behind. Meanwhile, drama queen Hallie is throwing herself headlong into life — and love — in L.A., spending every second with gorgeous musician Dakota and warding off the attention of brooding vet Brandon. But is Hallie blinded by the stars in her eyes? And is Grace doomed to forever hug the sidelines?
(Courtesy of Goodreads)

It's no secret.  I love a good retelling.  I love it when an author takes a beloved classic, and puts a modern spin on it.  I have only one requirement- they had better do the original work justice.  Sometimes I get nervous when an author reimagines an especially loved story, and that was the case here.  Sense and Sensibility is one of my favorite Jane Austen novels, and while I was looking forward to reading Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood, I was also a bit apprehensive...  Well, I'm not going to go out on a limb like I did when I reviewed The Trouble With Flirting by Claire LaZebnik, a modern retelling of Mansfield Park, and say that it is better than the original (read my review HERE), but it was cute and super-fun, and I was completely charmed by it.  I felt like Abby McDonald did a fine job modernizing the much loved classic, while keeping to the general themes of love, loss, and coming of age.

Hallie and Grace move to L.A. after their father dies and everything is left to his new wife, forcing them out of their home, and away from all they know.  While L.A. is not rural Devonshire, the setting of the original story, I feel like Grace and Hallie experienced the same kind of loneliness and isolation that Marianne and Elinor did because L.A. is such a superficial place, and in the end status trumped all else in both settings.  The ways they dealt with those feelings, as well as the romantic feelings each had toward their respective love interests, were very similar to the girls in Sense and Sensibility.  Hallie was as much the drama queen that Marianne was, and Grace and Elinor were similarly stoic and responsible.  As far as the other characters are concerned, I loved how Abby McDonald reworked them. The fact that Dakota was a musician was fantastic, and I thought it was great that Theo was the evil stepmother's kid brother.  I though Palmer was great, and my only complaint about her was that we didn't see enough of her.  Same goes for Amber, who ended up being one of my favorite characters.

As far as the plot is concerned, I thought it flowed really well.  It never got boring, and I really liked how everything turned out.  I especially liked that the author gave a little "where-are-they-now" page at the end, citing what happened to all of the characters down the road.  It gave me a sense of closure, while also making me laugh.  In the end, this book was light, funny, sweet, and just what I needed after the sob-fest that was the ending of Clockwork Princess, which I read right before this.  Honestly, my only real complaint about Jane Austen Goes to Hollywood was the cover.  I think the could have done a lot better... Still, if you are a fan of Jane Austen and enjoy a good retelling, I recommend you give this book a go.  I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

My Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★  

Grade Level Recommendation:  This book is pretty clean.  There's some teen drinking, and sex is alluded to, but otherwise there's nothing that could be considered objectionable.  This book is perfect for grades 6 and up (ages 11 and up).


  1. This sounds different! I haven't enjoyed a lot of retellings, but this one seems particularly promising. Great review!

    - Ellie at The Selkie Reads Stories

  2. Oh cool. I was all prepared to rage at this one because I hate the cover. I'm also not a big fan of the title, because Jane Austen isn't a character in it. They're just trying to make sure they get all the Austenites. Sigh.

    BUT I didn't know it was Sense and Sensibility, which is awesome. I love P&P as much as the next Austenite, but I'm tired of her other books not getting their dues. Nice that people are branching out more now!

  3. I don't really read retellings, but I enjoyed Abby McDonald's Getting Over Garrett Delany. So, I look forward to reading this.

  4. Hi. Great review! I love retellings but I judge them quite harshly if I like the original. After reading this I think I'll definitely pick this one up and give it a try :)

  5. This sounds different! I haven't enjoyed a lot of retellings, but this one seems particularly promising. Great review! IPL8 live 2015


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